Taiwanese airmen walk past an F-16 fighter jet at Taitung Air Force Base. Photo: Central News Agency, Taiwan

The Taiwanese military can expect more cash and resources as the self-governed island is planning, amid recent menacing gestures from Beijing, to devote more than US$13 billion annually on defense within the next decade.

This is the main thrust of Taiwan’s new military spending plan spanning the next 10 years. It represents the latest bid by President Tsai Ing-wen to drum up resistance to Xi Jinping’s renewed threat to annex the island. Taiwan remains, in Beijing’s view, a breakaway province that must be brought back under its suzerainty either through peaceful reunification or by force.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry announced on Monday an incrementally rising 10-year budget aimed at breaking the NT$400 billion (US$13 billion) mark by 2027 and further growing to NT$420 billion by 2029.

Part of the money will be spread over the years to fund Taiwan’s bid to procure 66 F-16V fighter jets from the US, in addition to 108 M1A2 assault tanks, should Washington approve the deals.

Taiwan’s unofficial ally has pledged security assistance with its supply of defensive arms, but is reportedly unhappy about the island’s stalled growth in military spending in previous years.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has promised to increase the national defense budget. Photo: Handout

Still, what the Taiwanese military can spend per annum – around $11 billion in 2019 – is a fraction of the amount available to its arch-rival, the People’s Liberation Army. During the same period, the PLA will have $177 billion to spend.

Warplanes and vessels from the PLA now frequent the air and waters surrounding Taiwan. Some of them have gone a step further from conventional circumnavigation missions to penetrate Taiwan’s airspace and marine borders, especially since Tsai and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party have displayed a propensity for independence.

The latest intrusion occurred on Monday, when Taiwanese warplanes and military vessels shadowed a group of Chinese fighter jets, including the Su-30 and J-11, as they edged close to the southern shore of the island while en route to a military drill in the Western Pacific, according to Taiwanese papers.

This follows another incident when a pair of J-11 fighters strayed through the median line separating Taiwan from the mainland above the Taiwan Strait at the end of last month.

In a separate development, the US State Department has approved a deal to renew a $500 million training program in the US for Taiwanese military personnel, who will then return to the island to pilot and service the existing F-16 fleet, according to CNN.

The package will cover flight training, participation in approved training exercises, supply and maintenance support as well as spare and repair parts. The program is based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and has already been running for several years.

“[The approval] is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” said the State Department, though it added that the deal was unrelated to the ongoing review of selling new F-16 fighters to Taiwan.

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